By Ryan McLouth
“Help! People aren’t singing during worship at my church. What do I do?” According to numerous blogs shared endlessly on Facebook, this is a growing problem in the modern church. Though I think these posts tend to sensationalize the issue, some congregations are experiencing it to a certain extent. Churches are experiencing a lack of corporate participation in song. What are some reasons for this?
You haven’t taught the congregation their role in the worship service. Sometimes people don’t sing because they don’t know that they’re supposed to. Taking time to explain to the congregation that they are also “part of the band” is worthwhile. We all sing to receive revelation, glorify God, and edify one another.
You don’t have a canon of song. With the escalation of mass media in the last several years, it is easier for music leaders to access and perform more songs. This isn’t always a good thing. Remember the congregation is part of your team as well. If you are doing brand new songs every week, they’ll never have the time and frequency to learn them.
You’re hard to follow. Some leaders embellish the melody too much and sing in keys that aren’t possible for the untrained singers in a congregation. Hymnals are often written with a specific range in mind for the melody of each song, making it possible for everyone to sing along. Modern worship has the same opportunity, but it takes effort on your part to prepare music that is doable.
You aren’t directing the congregation. It feels good to close your eyes and be in your own world when you’re performing. That isn’t your job as a worship leader. Your job is to verbally and nonverbally direct the congregation in song. This means eye contact, hand gestures, head nods, and blatant verbal instruction.
You and your team are not prepared musically. I hear a lot of people say that it is a priority to prepare our hearts for leading worship. Yes, of course. However, if your ensemble can’t play or sing the songs without mistakes, we can’t follow you, and we stop singing.
Your sound is not balanced. Whether it means turning down guitar amps, getting a silencer for your drums, or training/paying someone who can effectively run sound, we have to be able to hear the important cues.
Your congregation doesn’t know you, or worse, doesn’t trust you. Have you taken the time to introduce yourself? Do you participate in fellowship with them? Are you developing relationships? If not, people may not feel compelled to follow you in worship.
There aren’t corporate actions in your service. The congregation needs to be involved in your service as much as possible — not just in song. Are you offering communion? Is there an opportunity to read scripture or pray aloud together? When there are many corporate components to a service, people tend to be more willing to participate.
Thanks for tuning in this month. If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you! You can contact me at any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.